Rugby World Cup: Wallabies v Fiji Preview - Green and Gold Rugby
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Rugby World Cup: Wallabies v Fiji Preview

Rugby World Cup: Wallabies v Fiji Preview

The wait is finally over! Hope everyone has stocked up the fridge, pre-warned the loved ones and crash tackled the mailman because the Rugby World Cup is finally here. The Wallabies begin their campaign in familiar fashion to 2015, taking on Fiji. On that occasion, the Aussies ran out 28-13 victors in a contest that set up their famous run to the final.

However, this is a much improved Fiji team, having beat three tier-one nations since their last contest in 2017. The flying Fijians will be coming into this match full of confidence after a positive 2019 campaign and coach John McKee will have them ready to cause an upset.

Background

The Wallabies got off to a slow start in 2019, losing 35-17 to the Springboks at Ellis Park in a sloppy performance that saw the side waste possession and opportunities. The side would bounce back the following week, with a more convincing performance, defeating the Pumas 20-16 in a game dominated by a committed defensive effort and an impressive scrum. However, their best performance would be saved for their following game, putting in a clinical performance to dominate the All Blacks 47-26 at Optus Stadium.

Unfortunately, this dream turned into a nightmare, with the All Blacks dominating from the opening whistle the following week, shutting out the Wallabies 36-0 in a disappointing performance with the Bledisloe on the line. They would bounce back in their final warmup game, with a second-string side defeating Samoa 34-15.

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Fiji had a mixed 2018 international season, with wins against France, Samoa and Georgia followed up by loses to Tonga and Scotland. This was followed up with a tied series against the Maori All Blacks to start 2019, highlighted by a 27-10 to the Flying Fijians in Suva, their first win over the Maori side in 60 years.

They opened their Pacific Nations Cup campaign a fortnight later with a narrow 34-21 loss to Japan, rebounding from this with victories over Canada (38-13) and Samoa (10-3). They finished off their preparations with a 29-19 win over Tonga.

Team News

The Wallabies have gone for a similar team to the one that defeated New Zealand in Perth, with the main exception being the returning David Pocock. Pocock slots into the blindside role to partner Michael Hooper as the two flankers, with Lukhan Salakaia-Loto reverting to the bench. Other notable changes include Allan Alaalatoa slotting into tighthead prop, with Sekope Kepu replacing Taniela Tupou on the bench and Nic White winning the race to the starting 9 jersey to partner Christian Lealiifano in the halves.

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

Fiji has named their strongest side possible, with the most shocking move being the shift of Semi Radradra to the wing. Whilst that wouldn’t stun rugby league fans, Radradra has excelled for Bourdeaux playing outside centre so it came it a real surprise to see him out on the wing. Stade Francais back Waisea Nayacalev will slot into outside centre, with Rebels halfback recruit Frank Lomani and former Waratahs and Crusaders playmaker Ben Volavola selected in the halves.

Key Match-Ups

Rory Arnold gets into full stride

Rory Arnold gets into full stride

Rory Arnold v Leone Nakarawa
With the selection of two openside flankers in the Wallabies set-up, Rory Arnold needs to step up and take over at set-piece time. The Wallabies finished up with the best lineout in the Rugby Championship, with a success rate of 90.3 per cent and Arnold was one of the key reasons for this. He has been one of the Wallabies best this year and he needs to maintain this form and continually take the ball over the advantage line if they are to flourish.

He comes up against Leone Nakarawa, who was named European Player of the Year last season after an impressive campaign which saw the 31-year-old lead the Parisians the Champions Cup final. Nakarawa will be a handful for the Wallabies, with the combination of speed, strength and height a nightmare for any side. The ‘Octopus’ terrorised the Wallabies in their last game in 2017 and he will need to back this up if the Fijians want to pull off an upset.

RUGBYU-FRA-TOP14-BORDEAUX-CASTRES

Marika Korobiete v Semi Radradra
This is a fun match-up, with both wingers having played international rugby league for the opposition nation. Korobiete, the Fijian league star turned Wallabies star has been one of the best for Australia in 2019, with his barnstorming runs and explosive speed setting up his career year for the Rebels before he solidified himself as the number one winger in the country during the Rugby Championship.

He comes up against Radradra, the Kangaroo turned Fijian star, who has made a name for himself since transferring to the good side in 2017. Radradra played a key part in their sparkling 2018 international campaign, scoring a try in their historic win over France. Both wingers will look to take the game on with their explosive speed and strength, with the ability to change the momentum of the contest with a single run.

Numbers that matter (Thanks to Opta Sports)

1954:The last time the Wallabies were beaten by Fiji, with the Aussies unbeaten in the last 17 games (W:16, D:1)
37-14: The score-line the last time that the Wallabies played Fiji in 2017 at AAMI Park.
1987: The last time that the Wallabies lost back-to-back World Cup games
93%: The record of Australia in the group stages (26/28) with New Zealand the only nation better
29: The number of turnovers by David Pocock at the Rugby World Cup, more than any other player in the World Cup’s history
36%:Win percentage of Fiji at the World Cup (W:10, L:18)

Predictions

I think that the Wallabies will be a dog fight to start their World Cup campaign, with Fiji looking a much-improved side from two years ago. However, I think that Australia’s experience and the combination of Hooper and Pocock will be the difference, getting the Wallabies off to the perfect start.

Match Prediction: Wallabies by 10
Bold Prediction: Samu Kerevi 1 try/Man of the Match

Match Details

Wallabies (15-1): Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, James O’Connor, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Christian Lealiifano, Nic White, Isi Naisarani, Michael Hooper (c), David Pocock, Rory Arnold, Izack Rodda, Allan Ala’alatoa, Tolu Latu, Scott Sio

Reserves: Jordan Uelese, James Slipper, Sekopu Kepu, Adam Coleman, Lurkham Salakaia-Loto, Will Genia, Matt To’omua, Dane Haylett-Petty

Fiji (15-1): Kini Murimurivalu, Josua Tuisova, Waisea Nayacalevu, Lepani Botia, Semi Radradra, Ben Volavola, Frank Lomani, Viliame Mata, Peceli Yato, Dominiko Waqaniburotu (c), Leone Nakarawa, Tevita Cavubati, Peni Ravai, Samuel Matavesi, Campese Ma’afu

Reserves: Tuvere Vugakoto, Eroni Mawi, Manasa Saulo, Tevita Ratuva, Mosese Voka, Nikola Matawalu, Alivereti Veitokani, Vereniki Goneva

Date: Saturday September 21
Venue: Sapporo Dome, Sapporo
Kick-off: 2:45 pm AEST (1:45pm local time)
Where to Watch: Fox Sports 3 (Channel 503), RWC 4K (499) and Channel 10 (Free To Air)

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant Refree: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

  • GeorgiaSatellite

    Thanks Nathan. Brian’s playing blindside though, no?

    • Nathan Williamson

      Yep good spot thanks for that, it’s been updated

  • Max Graham

    Australia by plenty. This is one of the strongest teams we’ve put on the park in a long time. Once the Fijian line-speed slows, I expect we will do well at the fringes. Pocock and Latu will cause all sorts of trouble at the breakdown.

    Bold prediction – Oz halfbacks to score 3 tries.

    • IIPA

      Fiji’s pack is a real strength this time. A good scrum, Nakarawa is better than our second rowers and they have three Naisranis in the back row. Mata is a beast.

      Where they are vulnerable is midfield ( Volavola and the centres). Look for Alivereti who lit up the NRC to come on if Volavola struggles like he did in the corresponding game 4years ago.

      Other key is discipline – sure as shit just like England 2015, the islander nations and minnows will cop the rough end of dubious shoulder charge and high tackle calls. Pretty certain there’ll be times this tournament where Semi feels like he’s back playing league as only has 12 teammates on the field with him.

  • Adrian

    Bookmakers say Australia by 16.5. They are far more often right than wrong, as their livelyhood depends on them getting it right. Those who beat them in sporting situations do so by being massively knowledgeable.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      It would be a huge upset if Fiji win this one mate.

      • AllyOz

        They beat France in November. That’s only 8 months ago and they have had more time to prepare this time. Admittedly that was France who do tend to have those moments from time to time but we have hardly been the model of consistency recently.

        I think the selection for this game is a little bit horses for courses, expecting that our lineout won’t be challenged as much and that we can get away with no alternative fourth jumper but there are a couple of key match ups where I think they might be equally or better matched. This could be tight and come down to an intercept or a one on one defensive miss – who do you favour to miss the tackle – Korobeite or Radradrah.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Koroibete is more likely to miss it, simply because he’s less experienced at rugby.

        • AllyOz

          Well I would say its because he wasn’t as good a defender technically as Radradrah when they were both playing league. Your point is also true but its more about where he positions himself.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Yeah I actually mean the same thing but not explained well. I think he still needs to learn a lot about his positioning and that’s where the issue is. Good runner and can tackle but often out of position and so missed the chance

        • juswal

          The broken record is wrong. He’s more experienced.

      • laurence king

        Don’t talk about it, I for one would be hugely upset if that were to happen

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          So would I mate

    • Human

      I agree, provided we show them due respect and do not try to match the Fijian flair. I am not sure how long the Fijians have had in camp but reckon they will be a bit rusty in this one….they will frighten Wales though, after a few games together.

    • Hoss

      Same bookies have us favoured to go out in the quarters (paying $1.95), $2 to crash in Semi’s, $6 to make final (some value here), $7 to lose final & $18 to win final.

      PS – Welcome back, you are the damn walls against a sea of negativity. Any more absences will require a note from a Parent or Guardian.

      • AllyOz

        Where’s Rob Crowley got his money?

        • Hoss

          On a Wallabies RWC Title !!!!

        • AllyOz

          So they’ve taken him away because he’s insane then and not because he’s done anything illegal ;) I think I would prefer prison to an asylum personally.

  • Huw Tindall

    Too excited to comment properly. Only thing of concern is the fact the games start between 6am and 9am for the most part over here in London. Is it acceptable to have a beer at that time?

    • GeorgiaSatellite

      Absolutely! It’s a 6-week-long special occasion.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Absolutely mate. You’re on Japan time while you’re watching a game, everyone knows that

    • Keith Butler

      If you had a few the previous evening it’s just ‘ hair of the dog’. Enjoy.

    • Greg

      All the best with work for the next few weeks!

    • Hoss

      I have worn a Wallabies ‘one-sie’ to work mate and have filled my Lipton’s Ice tea to the brim with sour mash.

      Fuck conventions !!!!

      • Keith Butler

        I am also wearing my Wallaby polo although it does make the skin itch a bit. Far more comfortable in my SD t shirt. Both will get a good airing over the next 6 weeks. And my Gentleman Jack is at the ready.

        • Hoss

          I was trooping the colours in a few of our facilities this morning, carrying the Wallabies Gilbert around with me. Through it to a few staff, hit a few, a couple caught it, fired a couple who said ‘What world cup’ mocked a few bogan-ball followers.

          Lifes good during a RWC.

        • Keith Butler

          I also have my own Gilbert. Like some recent SD performances a bit flat. But I remember the halcyon days and The Rodents face as he presented Bill to Martin Johnson. Priceless.https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9e6cd68561cbfc361b84e7f080a384c09cd5f67c642c6ec61dcfec72c83b0238.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9536207d59f2551e2c5424fffa269925192a0475a96dae9fca00dbd95b3a2034.jpg

        • AllyOz

          a Union Jack bedroom setting….

        • Keith Butler

          Thought they might provoke a comment. The G&G my second team but will never forget my roots.

        • AllyOz

          if your roots are under that duvet I can fully understand my friend

        • Keith Butler

          As they say ‘what goes on under the duvet, stays under the duvet’.

        • Ads

          Britain’s Andy Murray has won Wimbledon!

          Scotland’s Andy Murray was knocked out in the 3rd round.

          Such flexibility with a Union Jack and the British tabloids!

          Good luck for the tournament Keith.

        • Keith Butler

          Would love the SDs to make it to the final but I don’t reckon they will make it. In which case, go the G&G.

        • Keith Butler

          A present from my Aussie wife. Reeled out on special occasions.

        • Hoss

          I’ll donate the matches

        • Keith Butler

          Ouch!

        • Human

          “For Queen and country” judging by the decor, KB. 2003 was the best and worst of times.

        • Keith Butler

          Was the best for me. In Perth, saw a few games, a weeks diving at Rowley Shoals and a wife as well.

        • Human

          Were any games played in Perth? I cannot recall. I saw a few in Brisbane and one in Adelaide. Did not go to the final but still remember the tension of it, and Wendell Sailor’s dreadful defence on Robinson.

        • Keith Butler

          All England’s pool games we’re there. I saw the Saffa and Uruguay game and the NZ/SA game in Melbourne. Back in the UKfor the final.

        • Keith Butler

          Robinson had jet shoes. I could watch the break he made against Wales in the Q/F that set up Greenwood’s run in on an endless tape loop. He is one of the few players in the England team that the term ‘world class’ could apply imo.

        • Human

          He did, that is why Sailor’s defence was so poor…he showed JR the sideline and JR took it. Sailor should have known better having seen Robinson plenty of times in League.
          That England team had a few class players.

        • AllyOz

          It would be hard not to “lie back and think of England”

        • AllyOz

          not sure this is relevant but my current dog is a failed kelpie cattle dog. When i first got her and threw her a ball she just didn’t get it. She would let the ball hit her in the head and walk away. Your story reminded me of that for some reason. She is now, BTW, addicted to playing ball (and supports the Wallabies but doesn’t agree with RA’s action on Israel Folau).

        • Hoss

          Israel who ???

        • AllyOz

          and so it shall end…neither the time nor the place for that discussion

        • Hoss

          Absoflogginglutely mate.

          I am liking the team v Fiji. I personally went the Pooper and had Dempsey on the pine instead of FKA. I didnt have Uleses in the side, but i like what the kid potentially delivers and not having been privvy to the training paddocks or game-plans i am happy to back the selectors on this one.

          We need to disrupt the Fijian fruit and Brian, Tolu and Lee Magors can do that and then some.

          Go you golden good things !!

        • joy

          I’m happy to stick with dogs.

        • Adrian

          Israel the biggot that’s who

        • joy

          It’s bigot. It’s hard to get away with calling one a bigot without making a bigot of yourself.

        • Adrian

          OK

        • juswal

          Need photo of dog!

          My kelpie-terrier cross could be be a Wallaby contender if she were more of a team player. Good under the high ball, great kick chase, low body height, fearless at the breakdown and cannot be stopped when she’s away along the fence, with a beautiful side-step and an in-and-away that leaves me flailing.

          I need to keep the footy half-inflated because her mouth isn’t all that big.

        • AllyOz

          Mine is full kelpie but a little on the large side (a bit like the owner). She has the kelpie disdain and disinterest but isn’t quite the workaholic that other kelpies we’ve had were.

          She is incredibly smart though. She has now worked out a way that she can throw the ball to me and I collect it a bring it back to her rather the other way round. A picture later today but I think she would only be a finisher, runs out of puff after about 10 – 15 mins – put her on with LSL and they can do a similar job.

        • juswal

          Sounds like she knows her strengths, and rugby is a game for specialists.

        • AllyOz

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ec5874b690eef54d3c38eb8843784af0445aafdddc604ca97bc2ca30101aaf4f.jpg
          Kelly the wonder dog – she prefers the orange ball as it squeaks when she chews it. We haven’t attempted a rugby ball yet as the only one I have on hand at the moment is signed by some old league legends

        • juswal

          I don’t have any dog-rugby pics at hand so here’s Poppy rucking for biscuits. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0372f1a5a18df37fd07b70cc9118c7022f88fa717b38e830daac3f72d682ffe8.jpg

        • AllyOz

          You perhaps need to get Tom Brady to work with World Rugby re: ball inflation levels for the World Cup if you’re going to get her on the paddock for the Wobs

        • laurence king

          What’s it’s pass like

        • juswal

          She’s a bit selfish tbh. Wants to score all the tries.

        • Who?
        • Hoss

          How friggin cool is that. Be useful in the line out

        • Why are you watching BBC lesbian period drama instead of drinking? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gentleman_Jack_(TV_series)

        • Keith Butler

          You got me.

    • AllyOz

      If sex/gender is now a social construct rather than biological fact these days then surely time is too.

      “times relative” as my old mate Albert, halfback for the Munich Atrophysicists use to say.

    • laurence king

      It’s opening time somewhere

  • Custard Taht

    The Wallabies should win this by 15 to 20. However this is the Wallabies, where inconsistency is the only consistency, so anything could happen.

    Irregardless, without misunderestimitating Fiji, the headlines should read “Fiji Drua a blank against rampid wallabies”

    • disqus_NMX

      Out of curiousity, how many of the Drua are in the Fiji team?

      • joy

        Halfback

        • disqus_NMX

          That’s it? Just one player from last year’d Drua???

  • Cornchips

    How many of you read that as pre-warmed the loved ones?

  • Adrian

    If they play direct they should do it.

    I’d like to see White and CLL off if/when it’s a clear result. We can’t afford injuries.

    I think Arnold will give us the go-forward we will lose without LSL. I think we missed Arnold a lot in the last 2 games.

    I heard a rumour somewhere that Arnold did call the lineout for Brums this year. If so, I’d have him doing that v Wales, with LSL in the second row.

    Go-forward will be ultra important in all Oz games, as without it, CLL will get a hiding, and Kerevi won’t get flat ball.

    For this game I’m counting on lots of line denting from Arnold, and from LSL when he comes on… hopefully with 20 to go.

    The breaks will be on the fringes of the rucks for us

    • Huw Tindall

      First sentence captures it all. You don’t beat Fiji by trying to out do them in the razzle dazzle. Set piece and in tight all day. Their kicking game isn’t a strength so play it in their half and keep the pressure on.

Fiji
@NathW1997

Loved rugby since the day I could remember, got the nickname Footy to show that, I watch Matt Dunning's dropkick every night before going to bed

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